Nepal is a well-known, popular tourist destination among Hindus for its vast heritage and culture. There are numerous temples such as Pashupatinath, Muktinath and Ram Janaki temple.
An hidden gem among these, In Eastern Nepal, is the temple of the headless goddess Devi Chinnamasta (One of Dasa Mahavidhya deities of Srividhya Tantric tradition) located in Saptari District, a few kilometers away from Rajbiraj is the powerful Sakhada Bhagwati temple dedicated to Goddess Chinnamasta. The Devi is known for her self-decapticated body, and the Temple is one of the most renowned Shakti Peeths of Nepal.
Image Courtesy : wikipedia.org
Although the temple has visitors throughout the year, during Navratri, huge crowds of people can be seen travelling from all over India and Nepal to visit the temple. The temple is known as one of the major religious heritages throughout the country that has maximum number of national and international pilgrims.
It is believed that the idol of the powerful goddess was found by King Nanyadeva (around 1097 AD) unexpectedly while digging the area for construction. Post its discovery, the idol was restored, installed and worshipped. The Devi was named Chinnamasta Bhagwati as her head was severed when she was found. The head was later replaced by gold mask.
The black stone statue of the goddess which has been installed in the Sakhadeshwari temple holds enormous religious significance. The most prominent statue at the temple is the statue of the Goddess Mahisasura Mardini, slaying the buffalo demon. The statues of Bhairav, Chamunda, Dakshin Kali are also present at the temple.
The temple is open for visit every day at 4 am, the first morning Pooja is completed by 7 am. The temple remains shut every day from 12.15-2 pm and reopens at 8pm.
Chinnamasta Sakhadeshwari belongs to the family of Durga. Her worship is said to yield: health; wealth; freedom from fear; ability to influence family, friends, women, and conquering enemies, and also yield liberation.
The Divine Mother is the feminine aspect of the God. God is beyond both Male and Female, but it can be said that God has different aspects and different manifestations. The Divine Mother is associated with the qualities of compassion, mercy, pure love and forgiveness. It is said that it is easier to please the Divine Mother than it is to please the masculine aspect of God.
Her devotees believe that Chinnamasta Sakhadeshwari gives all that is good for them. It is a widely held view that, when the path of life is dark and there is no help from anywhere, she helps at the very moment and can change the life in a very short span.
She is one of the main Mahavidyas (referred as a group of ten facets of Adi Shakti throughout Hinduism).
Ten Mahavidyas are all forms of Goddess Parvati namely, Kali,Tara,Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala.
Goddess Chinnamasta is considered the Goddess of wisdom and transformation and is generally believed to be the most powerful yet terrifying form amongst all. She is known for holding her own, self-cut head, standing in an imposing, aggression filled manner. The blood spilling out of her neck, drunk by her own head. It is a very powerful symbol denoting transformation towards liberation.
Chinnamasta (also known as Prachanda Chandika) is often considered the most offensive forms in which the goddess is depicted throughout holiness in Hindu culture. She is portrayed, completely naked to show her true nature as a Shakti free of all things and materials.
Devi Chinnamasta masta is also often viewed in Buddhism as a powerful symbol and is called as a Buddhist Goddess Chinnamasta munda. The goddess is believed to have the power to grant the wishes of her devotees wholeheartedly and those who have their prayers heard, often come back to take her blessings and make offerings reinstalling their belief in the goddess.
The tale according to Panchatantra Grantha goes as —once when Parvati went with her friends Dakini and Varnini to take a bath in the Mandakini River. Parvati, the divine mother was feeling very happy and positive, feeling a tremendous of love which was welling up inside causing her complexion to darken and this feeling was completely taking over.
Her friends, who accompanied her however, were very hungry and asked Parvati to provide them with some food. Parvati, who was now in a surreal state, requested her friends to give her some time and began walking around. After a little while, her friends once again came up to her reminding her that she was the Mother of the Universe and as her children demanded that their hunger be satisfied at once. The compassionate, Parvati smiled and with her own fingernail cut her own head.
Instantly blood spurted in three directions. This image is what is depicted throughout: the two friends drank the blood from two of the directions while the Goddess herself drank the blood from the third direction, feeding her own head.
As the goddess who cut her own head, she is referred to as Chinnamasta. Chinnamasta is often seen like a lightning bolt from the planet Sun. She demonstrates the rare strength and courage that is needed to make the highest possible sacrifice and is the epitome of selflessness.
The severed head, is often seen as a demonstration, symbolising liberation and strength. Every human’s individual identity is a collective state of their conditioning or limitations based on their innate qualities.
By severing the head, the Goddes reveals herself in her true liberated self, which is infinite, limitless and utterly unconditional. The idea of freedom is further reinforced by her nudity, implying that she cannot be covered or contained by any garment and is beyond all these factors and thinking.
Dakini, on the left, Varnini, on the right, Chinnamasta, in the middle are respectively black red and white. These colours represent the three gunas, or the universal energies. Sattva, represented by Chinnamasta’s whiteness, is the highest form of the all the gunas although all three belong to prakriti, the principle of materiality on which all nature rests.
The blood that can be seen spurting from Chinnamasta’s neck represents the life force (prana) or the universal cosmic energy that mimics the universe and sustains all forms of life. It is seen that the first stream of blood flows into Chinnamasta’s own mouth, showing that she is self-existent and non- dependent . The blood that flow as streams into the mouths of her attendants represent the life-force in all living beings.
Another powerful Sakthiipeeth Temple of beheaded Goddess Kali is in Jharkhand. This Holy place is located in Rajrappa, in Ramgarh district of Jharkhand. The Chinnamasta temple is popular for its Tantrik style of architectural design. The temple is very old and the place Rajrappa finds mention in the Vedas, Puranas and scriptures as a “Shakti Peeth”
Other Chinnamasta Devi Temples:
The Chintpurni (“She who fulfills one’s wishes”),Himachal Pradesh temple of Chinnamasta, is one of the Shakti Peethas (considered the holiest goddess temples) and is where the goddess Sati’s forehead (mastaka) fell. Here, Chinnamasta is interpreted as the severed-headed one as well as the foreheaded-one. The central icon is a pindi, an abstract form of Devi. While householders worship the goddess as a form of the goddess Durga, ascetic sadhus view her as the Tantric severed-headed goddess.
A shrine dedicated to Chinnamasta was built by a Tantric sadhu in the Durga Temple complex, Ramnagar, near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, where tantrikas worship her using corpses.
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, has a shrine of the goddess that is open only three days a year, around Chaitra Navaratri.
Her shrines are also situated in the Kamakhya Temple complex, Assam and Basukinath temple complex, Jharkhand along with other Mahavidyas.
There is a Chinnamasta temple at Bishnupur, West Bengal.
The goddess Manikeswari, a popular goddess in Odisha, is often identified with Chinnamasta.